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Mining Equipment 101: A Guide to Three Tools at Phoenix Gold Mine

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

Imagine you were an early miner. You knew gold and valuable minerals were hidden deep within the mountain. How would you get them out? You would need to separate waste rock from the mountain, lift that rock, and move it away from the mountain – a daunting series of tasks. Luckily, miners designed the following three pieces of mining equipment to make mining far easier – blast hole rounds, mucking machines, and mine cars, all of which can be found at the Phoenix Gold Mine!

Blast Hole Rounds

A blast hole round is a set of 20+ holes drilled into a rock surface for the purpose of placing explosives into the rock. This effectively breaks it into small enough fragments to easily excavate. The holes are filled approximately 2/3 full with explosives. The spacing and direction of the holes determines how well the rock will break. For proper breakage, explosive charges are set off with very short time delays between each.

The center holes (a.k.a. the “burn”) are set off first to cause an initial cut into the rock face. The bottom holes (a.k.a “lifters”) go off last. They break the lower portion of rock from the bottom of the blast hole round and lift all the previously broken rock a short distance away from the new opening. This makes excavation easier.

Mucking Machines

Mucking Machine: a big scoop at the front and levers on the side

A mucking machine is a compressed air-powered rock loading machine. Its design allows a miner to ride on a small platform attached to its side. Invented in Park City, Utah, these machines were intended to replace miners loading mine cars with shovels. The design of this mining equipment was inspired by the actions of a miner loading a mine car by


The miner used two controls to operate the machine. The first control makes the machine move forward on its rails into the pile of newly broken rock. The second control causes a bucket on the front of the machine to dig into the rock pile. Once the bucket is loaded, the miner backs up the mucking machine until they reach another mine car on the rails. The miner causes the bucket loaded with rock to rotate over the top of the mucking machine. It then dumps the broken rock into the mine car behind it.

Mine Cars

Mine Car

At the Phoenix Gold Mine, small rail cars moved broken rock after it is blasted loose from the mountain. Most people want to call these 'ore carts.' Miners called them 'mine cars,' since they often hauled more waste rock than ore.

The mine car in this photo was made in the 1920s by S.C. Card company in Denver, Colorado. It can haul one ton of broken rock. A ton of broken rock ranges in volume from 16 to 21 cubic feet depending on the type of ore minerals that make up the rock. Mine cars like this one were often pushed by miners on small rail tracks. If the distance the rock needed to be moved (a.k.a. “haulage distance”) was great, many mine cars would be connected in a train and pulled by mules, or later, by small locomotives.

These three pieces of mining equipment made miners' jobs much easier. Now they could blast rock out of the mountain more effectively, lift that rock with ease, and transport it out of the mountain on guided rails. This mining equipment allowed one miner to accomplish work that would have taken many miners. Come learn more about ingenious mining solutions and mining equipment on a tour at Phoenix Gold Mine!

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